Working out for some of us turns into a compulsion--when the endorphins kick in at around minute twenty-one of any exercise routine, you start to feel great! Many people, however, think they're done when they put the last barbell back on the rack, or when they run that last step on the treadmill. If they don't stretch, preferably before and after exercise, they endanger the whole pleasure and benefit of weight and cardio training. Soreness and stiffness can severely impede the gains. Here's a short guide on how to increase flexibility.
First, understanding why flexibility is important may increase your urge to gain in this important aspect of good health. With flexibility you gain these benefits:
- Improvement of range of motion in joints and muscles.
- Improvement of ability to build muscle mass.
- Prevention of injury.
- Comfort in everyday activities, such as tying shoes.
Flexibility is as important to the school child as it is to the athlete, as it is to elders. Being easy in our bodies helps to keep us active. Who really wants to work out when feeling stiff and sore? Here are some of the ways to keep supple and springy. The two-pronged approach to building and maintaining flexibility is via stretching and nutrition.
Stretching is the most well-known way to develop a body with a better range of motion. Rather than doing short sharp ballistic stretches, try stretching fully and using a static hold at the point of furthest extension. Stretching on the floor after a workout, however, is not the only way to gain flexibility. There are several techniques which are workouts in themselves.
Yoga is one of the classic methodologies for lengthening muscles, which in turns helps to build them.
Samantha Gladish, Holistic Nutritionist & Wellness Coach, believes in the connection between yoga, de-stressing yourself and flexibility:
“Yoga great for managing stress. Yoga really puts your body into your parasympathetic nervous system. That's where all the healing takes place in your body. It's not just about getting into these weird stretches. I have a lot of people that say, “Oh, I'm not flexible, I can't do yoga,” but that's why you do yoga, so you can become flexible. That’s sort of the whole point of it. It really allows you to just de-stress. It's time really for you. You're just focusing on you in your mat, in your space."
For the sought-after result, slow yoga is your best bet. Look at any dedicated yoga practitioner and you'll see a beautifully sculpted body. Pilates is also an option.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are two related movement disciplines springing from China. Tai Chi is the martial arts form of Qi Gong, and both are three thousand years old practices. They move energy around the body, releasing tightness.
Massage helps to unwind stiff muscles. Deep tissue massage is particularly beneficial for chronically tight muscles. Rolfing is a therapy which can actually reverse the ill-effects of acute and chronic traumas to our bodies.
As important as what you do to your body in developing limberness, is what you put in your body. Make sure you eat and supplement well. Be sure to consume healthy amounts of magnesium and trace minerals, as well as vitamins D, B, C, and E. Eat foods rich in healthy oils and high in water and fibre, to help remove waste materials from your body that tighten muscles. Oils also help keep your arteries healthy.
You will also want to keep yourself well-hydrated. Water is your prime source for hydration, followed by herbal teas. Any liquid having sugar or caffeine in it is a diuretic, and is not be a good source of hydration. Drink them for pleasure occasionally, but not as a habit. There are websites available to help you determine how much water to drink daily.
Finally, put breath into your body! Breathing from your diaphragm supplies every cell in your body with the crucial gases that allow you to relax, and so be flexible. While on the subject of breathing, practicing deep relaxation or meditation will enhance the benefits of everything you do to keep yourself safe and mobile for a long time to come.
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